Posted by: alisonwalley | 10 August 2010

BibleFresh

I haven’t posted for a while as you can see! Just now, I don’t plan to add more, but I might change my mind at some point.

Right now, if you want resources about the Bible and encouragement to get studying and stuck into it, you should visit the Biblefresh website.

Biblefresh is a movement of churches, agencies, colleges and festivals seeking to encourage and inspire churches across the UK to a greater confidence and appetite for the Word of God.

Our vision is to make 2011 a year of the Bible to help individuals and the whole church gain greater skill in handling the scriptures and a greater passion for hearing and obeying the Bible.

Go check it out and get yourself on the mailing list. Their latest email has lots of youth resources. But there’s stacks of resources for reading and training, plus experiences of the Bible speaking to people, and projects that have been inspired by it.

Posted by: alisonwalley | 17 May 2010

New Daylight

Aimer Media and the Bible Reading Fellowship have produced a couple of apps for daily Bible readings. You need to go to iTunes to download them (they work best on a phone where you can download today’s reading any time or any place you like).

Guidelines and New Daylight are based on two of BRF’s regular type of notes. New Daylight is a more ‘devotional’ type of notes with different readings each day, whereas Guidelines is described as designed for people wanting more serious study.

Both apps give you a week’s sample you can try before deciding to subscribe or not. However I had a glitch when trying to download the Guidelines app onto my iTouch. I hope to give a review when I’ve downloaded a version that actually has the samples on it — at the moment my pages are blank!

Posted by: alisonwalley | 9 May 2010

Bird-watching and the Bible

I haven’t posted for a bit – laziness on my part probably, especially as I finished the last post with ‘more in my next…’. I was going to post last Sunday but went to an election hustings instead. However, that’s another story. Let’s talk about birds instead.

This is not going to be a post on birds in the Bible, although I could mention the swallow that makes her nest “near your altar, Lord Almighty” (Psalm 84:3) or the sparrows who don’t fall to the ground without God knowing about it (Matthew 10:29). No, I want to pick up another idea.

When my husband and I started bird-watching we always had one finger in the bird guide. Apart from the easy birds like robin, blackbird, sparrow, we didn’t know whether what we were looking at was a rarity or something incredibly common. (I actually got into bird-watching by realising that all ducks are not mallards.) Now, we need a book to check birds we don’t see very often and for the rare ones. I’m not a very good bird-watcher, but when there’s something strange, I know it’s different. How? Because I know the common birds, the ones we see all the time.

I can’t help thinking that this principle applies in our Christian lives, and applies to how well we know our Bibles. How do you know whether what a fellow Christian, whether a conference speaker, a minister in the pulpit or just someone in your church you’re having a discussion with, is actually saying what’s in line with the Bible? Isn’t it by knowing what is actually in the Bible?

It’s easy to get locked into favourite passages or even favourite verses. But if you look at the whole picture, you see things better in context. The Bible hangs together. A single verse isn’t enough to build a whole doctrine on, but if lots of passages are saying the same thing, you can be sure it’s a) true and b) important. The New Testament gives the key to interpreting the Old, and Christ is the key to it all. Wow. Lots of stuff here which would take a long time to unpack!

If you know what the common birds are, you can spot the ones that are different or out of place. If you know the common themes of the Bible, you can see when others are missing or distorting the point. Better, the more we know our Bibles the more we start to grasp the idea of how big, how wonderful God is and what an amazing salvation he brought for us in Christ.

Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God!
How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out!

“Who has known the mind of the Lord?
Or who has been his counsellor?”

“Who has ever given to God,
that God should repay them?”

For from him and through him and to him are all things.
To him be the glory forever! Amen. (Romans 11:33–36)

Posted by: alisonwalley | 18 April 2010

Understanding and studying

Our son Mark’s website The Grove is on Fire is really stuff around youth work, but throws up some interesting links connected to the subject of this site. One that caught my eye was a post from Life in Student Ministry: Three things I want my Students to know before they graduate. (As it’s an American site, the author’s talking about high school students rather than college ones.)

His first two are to have an “overview understanding” of the whole Bible and know how to study Scripture for themselves.

Isn’t that what we should all be aiming at? If you take up birdwatching as a hobby, you’d expect after a while to get an idea of the different families of birds so that even if you don’t know what the actual bird is, you can tell if it’s a finch or a thrush. If you’re into a particular sport, you should be familiar with the rules and tactics. Some hobbies or sports are easier to get a hold of than others, but the point is, we don’t mind learning the terms and practising to master what we’re doing. You can go out and just kick a ball around, or look at birds through binoculars, but it makes all the difference to know what you’re supposed to be doing or what you’re looking at.

So, if you’re an adult Christian and have been a Christian for any length of time, have you actually got to grips with the whole Bible? Ok, so I’ve said this before, but a bird’s-eye view of the Bible is incredibly useful. It helps you to see how God’s big plan of salvation links together – actually it shows that God’s plan really is a plan and is really big! You don’t need to know exactly what’s in every chapter, but you do need to know the Bible because that’s what tells us about God and about his love for us and why he sent his Son for us.

As for the second point, I’ll just quote what the article says:

I don’t want our youth group kids to graduate and always be dependent on someone else to chew on God’s Word, digest it, and spit it out in bite size pieces for them each week at church. I want them to learn how to feed on the Word of God for their own and not just swallow the assumptions that I, or any other pastor or teacher, throws at them. They should be equipped to dig into God’s Word on their own, study it for themselves, and feed on its life-sustaining power, not being content with spiritual milk.

More on this in the next post.

Posted by: alisonwalley | 4 April 2010

Celebrating the kingdom

‘Happy Easter!’ An interesting greeting, but I wonder what it means. Easter eggs? Easter bunnies? Have a really good double-bank-holiday weekend and I hope the weather’s good for you?

A better Christian greeting is: ‘The Lord is risen!’, to which the response is, ‘He is risen indeed.’

But how do we get from Palm Sunday to Resurrection Sunday? Last Sunday in church we celebrated Jesus riding into Jerusalem on a donkey (see Zechariah 9:9), this week we celebrate his rising from the dead. That’s a big jump!

This morning it was my turn to do something for our older primary age Sunday Club kids all together before they go into their separate age classes. They range in age from six to ten, and because we had lots of visitors today there were over 30 instead of around 20. I’d planned to look at the whole of the week between Palm Sunday and Easter Sunday, so I asked them what had happened on the various days. Palm Sunday  – OK; Good Friday – OK; Easter Sunday – OK. But what happened on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday? Some of them suggested the Last Supper, quite a few others suggested that Jesus prayed, so that was Thursday. As for Friday, what happened before Jesus was put on the cross? One boy said, “He was taken to a palace.” I’m not sure if he meant Pilate or Herod Antipas but he had the right idea. Monday was a bit trickier but some of the older ones knew about Jesus turning over the tables in the temple.

So, that’s Sunday, Monday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday (“nothing happened”) and Sunday again, but what about Tuesday and Wednesday?

That brought blank faces.

The Bible says that Jesus told lots of stories, mostly about the kingdom of heaven. His death brought in the Kingdom, and if we belong to Jesus, we’re already in it. But what’s the kingdom of heaven like? We talked about the king who was holding a party for his son’s wedding and what their idea of a great party would be. I hope in heaven there will be the equivalent of bouncy castles, paintball, football, presents, dancing, ten-pin bowling and lots of food! The Kingdom is exciting, and Jesus’ resurrection shows the way.

Posted by: alisonwalley | 21 March 2010

What’s in the Bible?

Once, and not just in a mythical past, but not that long ago, if you asked basic Bible knowledge questions in a quiz, most people would know the answer: how many sons did Noah have? How many commandments are there? Name two of Jacob’s sons? Two of Jesus’ apostles (and how many were there)? How many loaves did Jesus feed the 5,000 with? This was standard Sunday School stuff, when most children went to Sunday school and/or had Bible knowledge taught as part of RE in school.

But now? Ask a question from the Bible, even one you think should be easy, and most people don’t know the answer. I was at a Girl Guiding leader training event the other week. One game we played (yes, leaders get to play the games we’ll teach the girls), was about numbers – move to the number which is the answer to the question. I was surprised how many questions turned out to be Bible based, but I think only I and a friend knew how many spies were sent into Canaan. I think some others there hadn’t a clue what the question was about.

So there’s a general ignorance of the Bible. But what’s more scary is the lack of knowledge from church people, even those brought up in the church. Well, that’s not a new topic for this blog, but of course I’m not the only person to be concerned, or to worry that we’re teaching lots of Bible stories, just not how they all hang together.

Then I had an email from Phil Vischer (well, not personally, but via the Tyndale Publishers ‘fiction first’ email list). Who is Phil Vischer? He’s the guy who created VeggieTales, basically a series of DVDs which retells Bible stories via veggie characters (Larry the Cucumber and co). Now he’s got a new project launched this month: What’s in the Bible? It’s a series of DVDs that does what it says, going through the whole Bible in a really accessible way.

Check out the ‘What’s in the Bible?’ website and especially the video clip where Phil introduces the project. I don’t know whether it’s available in the UK yet, but Veggie tales certainly are, so it won’t be long before you can buy the What’s in the Bible series too. Looks like a fun way to introduce families to the whole Bible.

Posted by: alisonwalley | 7 March 2010

Beginning with God

The Good Book Company, whose products I’ve plugged in this blog before, has recently produced an addition to their range of Bible reading aids. I hesitated over the word ‘aids’, because ‘notes’ in this case didn’t seem quite right. Why? Well, this is a book which is designed to be read/looked at by parents with pre-school children.

As the blurb on their website says:

Beginning with God helps parents with young children to explore the Bible with their child. This book provides a simple way to start your child in a regular habit of reading God’s Word and growing to know God, who loves them.

The material is arranged in the form of a meal. This sounds a bit odd, but if you read their six-page sample (a 3.3 Mb downloadable pdf), you’ll see the logic of it. Each double page shows a plate with the ‘main course’ printed on it, and the appetiser menu to the side.

The ‘appetiser’ is a something to think about before you start, that’s related to the story. You get extra ideas on the appetiser menu. So, for example, when you’re thinking about Adam and Eve they suggest starting with a look at some animals (toys or pictures), or making animal noises.

The ‘main course’ is a one-page reading from The Beginner’s Bible, followed by some simple questions and a prayer (with actions). When that’s done, there’s a sticker to go in the cup on the page. It’s really simple but great for toddlers who love stickers and activities like this.

What I really like too is that a ‘Snack for the journey’ is included, which gives you an idea to follow up what you did while you’re out and about, or indeed in the house, during the day. So suppose you read about God making the world, why not point out all the things God made when you’re in the park: Who made the tree? Who made the squirrel? Well, you get the point! And a good reminder for us adults who sometimes do what James warns us not to: read our Bibles and then go away and forget what we just read.

Posted by: alisonwalley | 21 February 2010

Lent ONLINE

IVP are publishing daily readings from Lent at this web address. Clicking on the link will take you to today’s reading. Lent actually started on 17 February, so you may have a few days to catch up – but as there are 40 days to Lent there are plenty more to come (some of which are already up on the site).

I can’t describe what the intention is better than the words of the website itself:

This website and its accompanying eBook have been produced to provide you with some material to help you to focus your thinking on God, to learn more about him and to learn to love him more – in short, to draw near to him.

In a series of short studies, you’ll re-visit the well-known story of Jesus’ passion, crucifixion and resurrection as told in John’s gospel – a book written with the express purpose of making God known.

The format gives the Bible passage followed by some comments and a question to think about.

You can subscribe by RSS feed, receive the studies by email, or download the pdf (eBook). The studies are adapted from Discovering John by Ian Barclay.

If you want something different for Lent, that focuses particularly on what God did for us in Christ, then this is a great resource.

Posted by: alisonwalley | 31 January 2010

Neglecting God’s word?

I hear from my husband that teachers are to be encouraged to pay much more attention to the ‘learner voice’. In fact he blogged on the subject. What it seems to mean is that students are to play a larger part in evaluating courses. And of course that’s fine. I used to teach adults how to use computers (word processing, spreadsheets, etc.) and one of the important parts of a course is to get feedback. What you as a teacher thought was a clear description of how to do something may in fact have been the part of the course which someone found most opaque (or vice versa I suppose).

The problem comes with evaluation moving into demanding certain things be taught (or not). Here the obvious question is ‘how can you know what you need to be taught if you don’t know the subject’? Now modern word processors are amazing pieces of software, with hundreds of functions. They can produce sets of labels from a table of names and addresses, tables of contents, complex tables, figure captions, documents with different headers and footers, footnotes, etc. etc.

But, most people actually don’t use more than the basics. Microsoft did some studies before they produced Office 2007, and found that 80% of people using MS Word use only 20% of its functionality. Perhaps they don’t need anything more than basic text with a few formatting extras, or perhaps they just don’t know a function exists. But if it works, then why bother to change?

What has that to do with Bible study you may ask? Just this: it’s tempting for us to stick with the bits of the Bible that we know. Perhaps the Gospels and some of the letters, stories in Genesis through to the first part of Exodus, the Psalms, some of the history books, the ‘Servant songs’ of Isaiah and the first part of Daniel. Leave aside the ‘hard’ books: Revelation, Leviticus, the first chapters of Chronicles, the last part of Daniel, the obscure minor prophets, possibly Romans as well.

But we do this at our peril. “ALL Scripture is God-breathed” says Paul to Timothy, so we should be reading all Scripture. How do we know what we need to know? God speaks through his whole word, and we can’t know it unless we read it.

Praise be to you, Lord; teach me your decrees…
I meditate on your precepts and consider your ways.
I delight in your decrees; I will not neglect your word. (Psalm 119: 12,15-16)

Posted by: alisonwalley | 17 January 2010

Meeting Jesus

Tonight’s sermon at church was one in a series on discipleship and focused on the Bible. At the end the preacher challenged us all to go home and read the Bible passage again, asking what God wanted to say to us through it.

Luke 13: 13-35 is the account of Jesus meeting two discouraged and downhearted disciples on the road to Emmaus. I have still to go and read this again but what has struck me many times about story is in line with the theme of this blog and links to something the preacher said:

“Jesus met these two at their point of need.” Yes, indeed. And what does he point them to? The word of God. The whole truth about himself, through the whole Scriptures (“beginning with Moses and all the prophets”). What is our resource for life? The Bible. How do we meet Jesus? Through his word, with the help of the Holy Spirit.

May God give us the grace and understanding to know Christ through the scriptures for our own needs and those of the world.

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